Discovering the Key Differences Between SAT and ACT

30 Differences Between SAT and ACT

The SAT is a standardized test that is used for college admissions in the United States of America which was started in the year 1926. Initially, it was known as Scholastic Aptitude Test and then Scholastic Assessment Test.

Later it came to be known as the SAT I: Reasoning Test, then the SAT Reasoning Test. Now it is finally just called the SAT. This exam is conducted for the process of admissions to colleges and universities for undergraduate programs.

It can be taken in most countries across the world. It is a paper-based exam that has a duration of 3 hours 50 minutes including the essay, provided there are no breaks. The paper tests knowledge and skills of students in the field of writing, critical reading, and mathematics.

The test is scored on a scale of 200-800 (in 10 -point increments), on each of two sections (total 400-1600). The essay is scored on a scale of 2-8, in 1-point increments, on each of the three criteria.

The exam is conducted 7 times a year and as many as over 2,000,000 students from high schools give the test. The students are expected to have fluency in English before appearing for the exam. Other than this there is no other prerequisite to appearing for the exam.

The fee for the exam varies between US$ 52 and US$ 101 depending on the country in which the student appears for the exam. The SAT is owned by the College Board in the United States of America which is a completely private but not-for-profit organization that is managed by the Educational Testing Service.

The main objective of the SAT is to assess what students learn in high school and if they are ready to move to college for higher education.

It tests the ability of the students in various subjects. In the United States of America taking the SAT for admissions into graduation courses is a prerequisite but in the 2010s it was made optional.

However, students still opt to appear for the exam as it remains the most important exam for higher education. The optional essay section has been discontinued since June 2021. The ACT exam is also a standardized test just like the SAT for admissions of students into colleges in Canada and America.

ACT stands for American College Testing.

The test is used to check the skills of the students in English, mathematics, reading, and scientific reasoning. The test is overlooked by ACT which is a nonprofit organization. It began to be conducted in the year 1959 and is offered in the US and Canada seven times a year and five times a year in other countries.

The test is computer-based as well as paper-based.

The duration of the exam is 45 minutes for English, 60 minutes for mathematics, 35 minutes for reading, and 35 minutes for science making the total duration 3 hours and 55 minutes. The test also has a non-graded part which is for or duration of 20 minutes and an optional writing test of 40 minutes.

The range of the grade is from 1 to 36, sub-score (for each of the four subject areas): 1 to 36. (All in 1-point increments). optional writing score: 2 to 12. (Sum of two graders scoring from 1-6). The fee for the exam without writing is U.S. dollar 46 and with writing is U.S. dollar 62.50.

The fee varies for students appearing outside America. Also, fee waivers are provided to students of grades 11 and 12 who need financial aid when appearing for the exam in the US.

Also Read: IB Schools in Hyderabad

Differences between SAT and ACT exam

To begin with, both the tests are not vastly different from each other. They are both nationally recognized standardized tests taken to gauge the proficiency of the students before their admissions into undergraduate courses in colleges and universities.

However, no colleges in America prefer scores from the ACT or SAT for admissions. Therefore, there might be no advantage of taking one test over the other. The tests differ from each other in more than one way. The SAT was created by Carl Brigham in 1926 and the ACT in 1959 by Everett Franklin Lindquist.

Earlier the SAT was favored by schools located on the east and west coasts, and the ACT was the test of choice for schools in the heartland of America.

SAT is a paper-based exam, and the ACT is both paper and computer-based. The total timing allotted to attempt the ACT exam is 2 hours 55 minutes without writing and 3 hours 35 minutes with writing. However, the timings for the SAT exam are 3 hours without the essay.

The order in which the sections appear in the exam also differs.

For the ACT exam, the order is

  1. English
  2. Math
  3. reading
  4. science
  5. writing(optional).

For SAT the order is

  1. Reading
  2. writing and language
  3. Math (no calculator)
  4. Math(calculator)
  5. Essay (optional)

The time allotted per section is different for the two exams. English is given 45 minutes, math 60 minutes, reading 35 minutes, science 35 minutes, and writing(optional) 40 minutes in the ACT.

The SAT allots 65 minutes to reading, 35 minutes to writing a language, 25 minutes to math (no calculator), 55 minutes to Math (calculator), and 50 minutes to essay (optional).

The ACT exam has 75 questions in English, 60 math questions, 40 reading questions, 40 science questions, and 1 essay in writing (optional).

The SAT exam has 52 reading questions, 44 questions in writing and language, 20 questions in Math (no calculator), 38 questions in Math (calculator), and 1 essay (optional).

The total score range in the ACT is 1- 36 and that in SAT is 400- 1600.

The cost of giving the ACT exam is $55 without writing and $70 with writing whereas the cost of the SAT exam is $52 without essay and $68 essay.

The ACT has a complete section on science whereas SAT does not.

The ACT exam allows the students to use calculators for math questions whereas the SAT exam has a math section in which the students are not allowed to use the calculator.

ACT focuses more on geometry, trigonometry and covers more concepts in math than SAT.

SAT focuses on algebra, graphs, and trend mapping.

SAT Also provides a diagram with mathematical formulas whereas ACT does not.

Math consists of 1/4 of the total score in ACT On the other hand it makes up half the total score in the SAT. So, if one is not good at math it is preferable to give the ACT.

The math sections in bold the exams a multiple choice but ACT provides 5 possible answer choices for every question and the SAT gives only 4.

The math questions in ACT are only multiple choice but SAT has questions in which the student is required to fill an answer.

ACT Reading does not have any evidence to support questions, but such questions comprise a major chunk in SAT reading.

SAT Reading questions are easier to answer than ACT questions as they follow a chronological order.

The essay portion is optional in both the exams but in the SAT the student was not required to give their own opinion however in the ACT the student’s opinion on the issue is also to be mentioned.

The SAT focuses more on vocabulary as compared to ACT.

The SAT focuses on logic and reasoning whereas ACT is a content test.

In the SAT, the level of difficulty increases as you move through the question types in a section, and in the ACT the level of difficulty is random.

The deadline for registration for Both the ACT and SAT  is four weeks before the test date.

The results for the ACT are declared 10 days after the test and the SAT declares the results 2-4 weeks from the test date.

Both the SAT and ACT exams are important and students with high test scores are given scholarships.

This helps them to afford higher education which is otherwise awfully expensive abroad.

Meritorious students can easily apply to decent universities and colleges for higher education.

Colleges give equal weightage to both the exams and do not give any special preference to SAT or ACT.

Therefore, it does not matter which exam the student chooses to appear for.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What is the difference in content between the SAT and ACT?

A: The SAT is focused on evidence-based reading and writing, along with math. The ACT has four sections: English, math, reading, and science, with an optional writing section.

Q2: Which test is more challenging: the SAT or the ACT?

A: This is subjective and depends on the individual test taker’s strengths and weaknesses. Some find the ACT’s time limit and pacing to be more challenging, while others may struggle with the SAT’s more complex reading passages.

Q3: Can you use a calculator on both the SAT and ACT?

A: Yes, both tests allow the use of a calculator on certain portions of the exam.

Q4: How long is each test?

A: The SAT is three hours long, plus an optional essay, while the ACT is two hours and 55 minutes long, plus an optional writing section.

Q5: How is scoring different between the two tests?

A: The SAT has a maximum score of 1600, with separate scores for reading and writing and math. The ACT has a maximum score of 36, with composite scores based on the average of the four sections.

Further Reading:

College Dunia

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